In this episode, I interview Tinder co-founder and Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe whose insights on dating have me floored. For example, she confirms my hunch that men age 40 are ripe for the picking — they’re accomplished and ready for a cozy relationship. Listen up, ladies!
Also, I help a follower Lisa, in Phoenix, navigate dating after a long marriage, including the ins and outs of online flirtations.
Full transcript of Like A Mother with Emma Johnson, interview with Whitney Wolfe of Tinder
Emma Johnson: Welcome to Like A Mother with Emma Johnson. I am your host, Emma Johnson. I am a financial journalist and I write for Forbes, I’ve been in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSN, Money, Glamour. You know, all those big publications. I am creator of WealthySingleMommy.com, platform where hundreds of thousands of professional single moms every month come and discuss career and finance, parenting, dating, and sex. I am so excited about today’s show. We are going to do business like a mother. My guest is Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe. She has a brand new dating app that is out and is not only changing online dating, but it is changing sexual politics. This is one to watch. I love what she has to say.
Emma Johnson: We are parenting like a mother, I am here with my best girlfriend, Betsy Smith. We don’t really talk about our kids, and we think you should stop talking about your kids too. This is for America, people. And we are dating like a mother. One of my readers, Lisa, is calling in. Her story, I hear it time and again, she is back out in the dating world, she is a beautiful woman, but she has not gone on a date in 23 years. She’s a little intimidated. Technology, online dating, this is all completely changed dating, and I’m just giving her some tips about how to get back out there and own dating.
Tinder: the app that changed online dating
Emma Johnson: I am here with Whitney Wolfe. Whitney is co-founder of Tinder. We all know what Tinder is, the dating app that really has completely changed not only online dating, but arguably dating period in America. And she is co-founder and CEO of Bumble. And Bumble is brand new dating app. On first glance, you interface with it a lot like Tinder, but it has something really uniquely different. Whitney, welcome.
Whitney wolfe: Hi. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Emma Johnson: Thank you. So tell me, really briefly, what is the one differentiator with Bumble? What makes it different than every single other dating app out there?
Whitney wolfe: So the big standout feature is that women must make the first move. So similar to Tinder, and similar to other dating platforms, you swipe through eligible singles, and when you match, there’s a 24 hour ticking clock of sorts, and the woman must make the first move. And if she does not, that man disappears.
Emma Johnson: It is fascinating. Tell us what the impetus was for creating this app with that feature. What was going on where you saw a need for this?
The story behind Tinder: Bumble vs. Tinder
Whitney wolfe: Yeah, so I’m a firm believer that looking at a pre-existing product and trying to enhance that is not the best route to take when you’re launching a new feature or a new product or bringing a new company to the scene. I think you really have to go back to the real life interaction. So this really was not any rebuttal to a pre-existing dating app. It was really looking at the landscape of pre-existing dating scene. Women oftentimes are so busy in their lives, they’re so independent, they’re conquering their careers and getting degrees and traveling the world, but they wouldn’t make the first move with a guy. They would never text a guy first. And this is broken. This is backwards. There’s something that is not right about that. And so with Bumble, I really wanted to find a way to solve that issue. It wasn’t really … There was no let’s go out solve an issue in the dating app world, it was really let’s solve an issue in the real world.
Emma Johnson: Right, because I mean like I’m 38 years old, so I kind of came of age of the rules. And the rules were just reaffirming what previous generations, multiple, were telling women and men about dating, which was that men initiate, women should let me initiate, everybody’s happier if the guy is taking the lead all of the time. And you’re saying that that was messed up, that that was broken. And here’s the thing, because there’s a big part of me as a single woman, very feminist, career, all of those things that you said, I’m out there dating, and I still like when guys lead. I like it when they pursue me online. I like it when they ask me out. I like it when they plan the date. I like it when they take over in bed. I like that.
Whitney wolfe: So I’m with you on that. And the beauty of Bumble is we’re not taking any of that away, at all actually. Because let me tell you all we’re really doing. He can still be Mr. Go Getter. He can still take the lead. He can still call the shots in terms of, “Hey, let’s go here for dinner and let me open the car door.” We don’t take away any of that chivalry. We don’t take away any of that. All we’re doing is kicking off the conversation in a confident way. So I’m also a very firm believer that if something starts on confident footing, the chances of it remaining healthy and staying confident are so much higher than it starting in a kind of insecure, broken way.
On women making the first move
Whitney wolfe: So imagine this. Say you meet a guy at a bar. And you guys lock eyes and you kind of hit it off. Now, imagine there being a glass wall in between the two of you. You know he wants to talk to you. You’ve already locked eyes. You’re confident in the fact that he would like to speak to you. But only you have access to unlocking that wall, to bringing that wall down. So really all you’re doing is showing him, “Hey, I’m in the driver’s seat here. You’re allowed to be as chivalrous as you want. You’re allowed to be as commanding as you want, but I have to start this off, so you have to give me respect in order for me to do that.” So by the woman making that first move, she’s honestly just saying, “Hey, I’m here, I’m confident, I know who I am, and treat me well.” And it’s so interesting because he doesn’t get met with rejection in that sense.
Whitney wolfe: A man that feels rejected can be very aggressive. And so when you make that very first move, even if it’s a simple hello, we’re not asking you to say, “Hey, here’s our date plans for the night.” We’re not asking you to kind of go above and beyond, but if you even just start by saying, “Hi. Hello.” He’s flattered. And it will have a really interesting impact.
Emma Johnson: Well, okay, you’re obviously on to something because you have 1 million users. I think you told me that you have 9 million female initiated interactions.
Whitney wolfe: Yes, that’s right. So that was 9 million times a woman has made the first move.
Emma Johnson: 9 million times there’s been conversations started. And I will tell you anecdotally speaking, I jumped on your app very recently. I had never heard of you until a friend recommended, single mom, beautiful woman, very successful, we’re on the playground with our kids and we’re looking at Bumble, and we’re like, “Oh my God, he’s hot and successful. He’s hot and successful, swipe. He’s hot and successful, swipe.” It was like a gold mine of attractive, interesting men. Like you’ve nailed it.
Whitney wolfe: I’m so glad to hear that.
Emma Johnson: And further, I mean the reality, you log in very, very quickly and very easily through Facebook. So it’s pulling all that data and there’s definitely like the familiarity function going through. And it works because I saw in literally five minutes three men that I know personally, one of whom I’ve dated.
Whitney wolfe: That’s unbelievable. No, I mean I think it’s really interesting that you touch on that, and beyond just having really … Having guys on there that maybe you find to be eligible for you and your friends, I think what’s fascinating about that is it goes to show the modern man, the man that you want to date, he wants a woman who feels comfortable and safe. And that’s really all we’re trying to do. We’re trying to say, “Hey, here’s a platform that caters to both the man and the woman. We’re not trying to give the woman only the power.” That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to exclude men.
Whitney wolfe: We’re really trying to say, “Hey, here’s a platform. The woman has an extra level of security. She feels safe. She has to be a bit courageous and kind of maybe step out of her element and say hi.” And the man, in turn, gets some pressure release, because we all know that every guy out there does not necessarily, he’s not necessarily in Casanova mode all day long. Why does he have to have the pressure of always going first? It’s actually interesting. I would argue that a lot of great guys won’t make the first move out in a public setting because maybe they don’t want to come off as too forward, or they don’t want to feel creepy. It goes both ways. Human beings are human beings at the end of the day.
Emma Johnson: I agree with that. I hear from women all the time.
Whitney wolfe: I think these … Yeah, these gender stereotypes.
Gender stereotypes in dating
Emma Johnson: Yeah, it really is. And women can be really harsh, and they can be very critical of men for not initiating dating in the right way, or the way they behave in a relationship. But I’m like, “Give the guys a break.” We’re still trying to figure out the finer points of feminism. Guys are totally trying to figure it out. Like especially the good ones, because the good ones, they want to be doing the right thing, but what is the right thing? There are no rules anymore.
Whitney wolfe: No, it’s so true. And it’s actually really funny. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but growing up I would always scream if I saw a spider. And my parents would always say, “That spider’s just as scared of you as you are of it.” And I think it kind of goes to same way with men and women. It’s like, “Well, I don’t want to text him first.” Or, “I don’t want him to think this way of me.” And there’s this kind of inherent insecurity around what the other one might perceive of the other. And if you were to look at it from the other side of the table, I think a man oftentimes feels the same way.
Whitney wolfe: So it’s almost like we’re both doing the same dance, and no one’s forcing one or the other to make the move, and that’s where I think Bumble’s doing something really interesting because it’s saying, “All right, we’re going to interject here. We’re just going to call it how it is. Ladies, you go first. Men, you sit back. And then you go first.” So we’re really just trying to say, “All right, enough of this dance. Let’s get some action going here.”
Emma Johnson: I think that you’re really hitting on something. I mean, that’s where great technology takes off or any innovation, where it’s really just solidifying a social movement that’s already going on. It hasn’t just been captured. So for example, I mentioned that I saw somebody that I’ve dated who I’m still friends with on Bumble in literally the first five minutes that I was on there. And I reached out to him and I told him that I was going to be interviewing you and I asked him why he was on it. Now, this guy, he is a very successful tech entrepreneur, he’s super cute and he’s a really nice guy, very charming, but he’s very masculine. Like he always paid, he leads, and so there was a part of me that was slightly surprised that he would seek out Bumble.
Why men like Bumble for dating
Emma Johnson: So I asked him and this is what … He sent me a note to explain it. He says, “Well, I see it as another channel for dating apart from Tinder. And I do like the idea of the girl messaging first. I want to think that it ends up filtering the type of girls that know what they like and are confident enough to start the conversation.”
Whitney wolfe: See? Bingo. That’s exactly what we were trying to do. And that’s … You would, not you in general, but people would be surprised that … You know how going back to like growing up and our moms would always say, “Don’t play dumb, it’s not sexy, it’s not cool, it’s not cute. Don’t do that, don’t do that. Be you. Be smart. Be sophisticated.” And it was always like the popular group of girls always thought the guys liked the ditzy girl. That was kind of the stereotype, at least in my experience. And it goes to show that that’s really not what anyone’s looking for. People really are looking for someone that’s confident and knows what they want and Bumble kind of just brings that out.
Emma Johnson: Well, and I will say, like getting into the nitty gritty of the app, which is different from some of your competitors, is that when you’re interacting with it, so you see it’s just you’re swiping left or right, and it’s all about the image. But there is two lines, again pulling from Facebook, which is person’s profession and their education. So it is, let’s be realistic here, Whitney, it’s people self-selecting and also it’s promoting themselves how they want to be promoted, which is, as we know, what’s one of the first things you ask when you meet someone in real life?” What do you do? Where are you from? Where do you go to school?”
Whitney wolfe: Mm-hmm, and where are you from, where’d you go to school? Right, exactly. I mean, think about it logically. If I said, “Hey, Emma, let’s go to this happy hour tonight. I think there’s going to be a lot of really interesting people and really cute guys.” You’re going to get to the happy hour and the first thing you’re going to ask anyone there is, “Oh, hi, what’s your name. Where are you from? Oh really. Where’d you go to school? Oh great. Now, what do you do?” All right, so those four questions have just been knocked out in a split second by you looking at that profile. It gives you so much context into if this person would be someone your compatible with. If this person knows anyone.
Whitney wolfe: I mean, think about it. It gives you a jumping off point. If he went to the same college that your best girlfriend went to, well, there you go. “What year did you graduate?” You’ve got stuff to talk about. So it’s really just a mechanism to let you not only say, “Wow, I really like your photo.” And let’s get real, a lot of guys out there, and women, a photo doesn’t necessarily do them justice all the time. So I don’t think it’s entirely fair. So adding that little additional information can really give both parties a great chance at hitting it off.
The future of Tinder
Emma Johnson: That’s awesome. So let’s see, tell us what’s next. You guys have, in less than one year, you guys are at like what? 10 months. You have already-
Whitney wolfe: Yes. We’re at 10 months.
Emma Johnson: 10 months. You have 1 millions users, 9 million conversations have been started. What can we expect next from you guys?
Whitney wolfe: So our vision through and through is creating confident connections. That’s really at the helm of everything. And I think we can take that so much further. And so we’re actually, and this is the first time I’m saying this, and it’s in development right now, but I think this is a great place to kind of discuss it with you. So currently, the woman has 24 hours to make the first move, right? But as it stands, the man has forever to respond. And of course we thought we had though of everything when you’re launching a product. You have to understand it’s like there’s so much that goes into everything that sometimes you don’t think things through perfectly in the first go around. So now we’re going to introduce that the man must respond to you in the same timeframe. So it’s fair game. It’s kind of, “Hey, get you on your toes.” You guys can’t just sleep on it for two weeks. And I think it’ll really further that kind of confident connecting that we’re trying to achieve.
Emma Johnson: From a business perspective, it’s genius, because now everyone’s going to be stalking their phones even more than ever before.
Whitney wolfe: Even more.
Emma Johnson: Right, which is exactly what you want. And so yeah, so kudos to you for tapping into that human compulsion.
Whitney wolfe: Yeah no, it’s funny how much we’re on our … Isn’t it crazy how much time we spend on our phones? It’s almost frightening. But yes, you’re right. If you’re going to be in the business, you might as well figure out how to kind of tap into those things even further.
The culture of online dating
Emma Johnson: And then one other feature that’s a huge differentiator is that it’s kindness is legislated on Bumble, right?
Whitney wolfe: Yes.
Emma Johnson: So if anybody misbehaves in the least bit, they can report it and the person’s shut down. Like one strike, you’re out.
Whitney wolfe: That’s exactly right. And you know what, Emma? It’s so funny that you just brought this up. Right before you and I hopped on this morning, I was just … I personally read every single feedback email because I think you get great insight from users. I think it’s an amazing way to kind of … It’s like having a focus group all day long, reading the feedback. It’s phenomenal. So that being said, and no names named, everyone is … Their privacy is extremely important to us.
Whitney wolfe: But a young man in his mid 20s did email this morning saying, “Hey Bumble, I just want to let you know that I have to admit I’ve been socially … I’ve behaved poorly on apps in my past, and Bumble has really made me realize why I’m so naughty and I really want to change my online behavior. Will you give me a chance? I don’t think I’ve been reported, but I just want to let you know that you’ve given me a boost of kind of like encouragement to be better online.” It was really sweet. It was really interesting to see something like that. But when the product encourages you to treat each other well, I think it really can have a significant impact.
Emma Johnson: Well, it does. It changes … You’re changing the culture. And technology does change culture.
Whitney wolfe: Yeah, absolutely. I think technology is its own form of culture at this point and it’s going to be really interesting to see where this goes.
Emma Johnson: Very happy to have you. This is Whitney Wolfe, founder, CEO of Bumble.
Whitney wolfe: Well, thank you so much.
Emma Johnson: Which is spanking douche bags on online dating sites every day.
Whitney wolfe: Oh, you kill me. Well, can we do a follow up when you have some more feedback? Go out and play the Bumble field and get back to me.
Emma Johnson: Well, I did. I encouraged all of my followers to check it out and they have similar experience. I mean, you’re still in major cities right now, so some of my moms that follow me on smaller towns, it wasn’t going to work for them right now. But I made sure they understood that you’re a startup and this is changing super quickly. So cannot wait to give you some feedback.
Whitney wolfe: Yes, we’re definitely starting to expand our reach. But yes, I’m always open to feedback and I encourage everyone to go out and give it a shot and email us and let us know how it goes.
Emma Johnson: Okay, awesome. Whitney Wolfe, 26 year old, founder, CEO, I love it. Good luck.
Whitney wolfe: All right, Emma, you’re the best. Have a great day. Thanks so much.
Emma Johnson: Bye.
Whitney wolfe: Bye.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.